Adrian Sutil has spoken of his delight upon returning to the streets of Monte Carlo following a year out of Formula One.
The German driver has enjoyed a good record at the circuit. In 2008, he shocked the F1 establishment by running as high as 4th for Force India, but his race was ruined when Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari ran into his rear wing and forced him to retire. Despite some bad luck in recent races, Sutil has made a good start to the season, and he is happy with his practice pace in Monaco.
“It’s always a pleasure to come back to Monaco and drive a Formula One car at the limit – and for me it is two years since I last drove here,” Sutil said in a team statement. “It did not take me long to find my rhythm again and things went pretty well.”
A good showing in practice saw Sutil finish P13 in the morning session, before improving by seven-tenths to finish 11th in FP2.
“We made some progress between the two sessions and I’m feeling comfortable with the car. We know what the plan is for tomorrow and where we can improve to be ready for Saturday.”
Force India’s chief race engineer, Jakob Andreasen, has set his drivers a target of finishing in the points this weekend.
“Performance-wise, I would say we are in our usual position and the target for Saturday is to see both cars inside the top ten,” Andreasen said.
Points will certainly be Sutil’s aim, having failed to score since the opening round of the season in Australia where he led the race for a few laps. His good Monaco record makes him one of the dark horses for a top ten finish, and perhaps even a spell towards the front should he optimize his strategy on Sunday.
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.